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Report: Pope Francis Imposed Travel Restrictions on Two Influential Conservative Prelates

Cardinal Raymond Burke applauds during a press conference

Pope Francis has imposed de facto travel restrictions on two influential conservative prelates, impeding their outreach to the faithful, Vatican reporter Marco Tosatti reported earlier this month.

In stark contrast to the travel ban imposed on disgraced former Cardinal McCarrick by Pope Benedict XVI in the wake of sexual abuse allegations spanning more than a decade, the restrictions on Cardinal Burke and Bishop Athanasius Schneider were imposed for no specific reason.

Bishop Schneider is the general secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Kazakhstan and titular bishop of Celerina, Switzerland. As a strong voice of orthodox Catholic faith, he has become a prominent and influential voice throughout the world.

In December 2017, Bishop Schneider was a signatory – along with Archbishop Tomash Peta of Astana and Archbishop Jan Pawel Lenga of Karaganda, also in Kazakhstan – of a Profession of the Immutable Truths about Sacramental Marriage, which was an attempt to clarify many questions that arose in the wake of Pope Francis’ post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia.

According to Tosatti, the Vatican ordered Bishop Schneider last spring to “reduce the frequency of his foreign trips.”

"The bishop learned of this extraordinary measure restricting his freedom from the nuncio to Kazakhstan, Francis Assisi Chullikatt, in April," Tosatti reported.

According to the journalist, there was no written order or any other written directive “on the basis of which the bishop could take some legal initiative, eventually before the Congregation for Bishops or before the Apostolic Signatura, which until the advent of Pope Bergoglio, was the request by which lay priests and bishops could appeal to decisions of the authority that they considered unjust."

In other words, as Catholic reporter Chris Ferrara noted, there was just an "appearance of an order, sotto voce, without any embarrassing paper trail to document what is obviously a plan to silence one of the foremost annoyances to 'the Dictator Pope.'"

While Cardinal Burke's freedom of movement cannot technically be restricted without any defined grounds for punishment, the Vatican reportedly got around that by sending word to the American bishops "orally and through a nuncio" that he should be persona-non grata at their events.

The Vatican ordered the U.S. prelates to “not invite people like Cardinal Burke to their diocese, and, if it is not possible to prevent his coming, not to attend any event at which he is present,” Tosatti reported.

Ferrara interprets:

In other words, the Vatican “suggests” in a behind-the-scenes whisper that the Church in America shun a Prince of the Church who has committed no offense other than to annoy the current occupant of the Chair of Peter by noting such inconvenient truths as this: “His [the Pope’s] power is at the service of the doctrine of the faith. And thus the Pope does not have the power to change teaching, doctrine.”

It's worth pointing out that Pope Francis actually lifted Pope Benedict's travel restrictions on the debauched serial molester McCarrick, and made him his most trusted adviser for relations with the Obama administration, according to Archbishop Carlo Viganò.

In contrast, Francis demoted Burke in November 2014, removing him as head of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s Supreme Court, and making him the patron of the Order of the Knights of Malta instead. He remains, however, among the "top 10 most influential prelates in the Church today," according to the Catholic Herald. 

Much of this influence has been used in unfashionable ways. Burke was among the four “dubia cardinals” who asked Francis to clarify certain points of his encyclical Amoris Laetitia, published in April 2016.

Speaking to the Catholic journal The Wanderer toward the end of the Youth Synod in October, Burke called Archbishop Carlo Viganò “a person of the highest integrity.”

Vigano drew the pope's ire when he published an 11-page letter alleging Pope Francis knew about sexual abuse charges against McCarrick, and urged him to resign in disgrace. The archbishop went into hiding, fearing for his life following the release of his bombshell letter.

Burke supported Viganò's letter, saying it was needed to confront grave wrongdoing: “The law of God in these matters is higher than, for example, the pontifical secret,” the cardinal said.

During a homily a few weeks after Vigano's letter was published, Pope Francis likened himself to the suffering Christ who was crucified because “the people were deceived by the powerful.”

Speaking from Casa Santa Marta in Vatican City, "the Dictator Pope" went on to say that his response to the “Great Accuser” would (continue to) be "silence and prayer."